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Servers Vs. Desktops: Why Small Business Need to Upgrade

Updated on September 21, 2017

Today, computers are a familiar sight not only at home but in a business too. It’s common to find more than one PC linked together to form a network. The idea behind this is to make work easier and allow sharing of information, files, storage, printers and much more. Thanks to technology, computers have advanced in terms of processing power, RAM capacity, storage size, design, cooling systems and their role. No longer are homes and businesses stuck with desktops only, they have access to servers which ensure optimum functionality.

What is a server?
This is a dedicated computer engineered with specific hardware running multiple services and acts as a host to many networked computers. It can also be defined as an instance of a computer program which is designed to accept and respond to requests made by another program or computer referred to as the client.

The servers not only have specialized hardware but they run specialized software too. They are used to manage network resources and even store information. For example, servers can be used to control access to a network, send and receive emails, manage print jobs and even host a website.

Thanks to improved technology, servers have been committed to specific tasks which mean they are required constantly so they are never turned off. If they fail as a result of an issue with hardware or software, they can cause problems for home owners and businesses. As a result, they are designed to be high end computers set up to be fault tolerant.

Here are the different types of servers

a. Database server

b. Dedicated server

c. Proxy server

d. File server

e. Print server

f. Web server

g. Cloud servers

h. Application server

What is a desktop?

This refers to a PC designed for regular home and business use. Thanks to its size, it can be used on a single location for example on or near a desk. As a multipurpose PC, they are operated by an end user rather than a computer expert or system administrator. They were invented to meet a wide range of tasks. They include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, internet browsing, email, digital media playback, playing video games and software application development among others. While they are specifically engineered for personal productivity, they do run special purpose software applications. They can be connected to the internet or to a local area network via fiber optics or wireless connectivity.

Unlike servers, desktops run user friendly software - the operating system and other applications. They are composed of a display, computer case, keyboard and mouse. The computer case houses the hardware that allows users to interact with the software and other components. They include the power supply unit, motherboard, processor, RAM, hard disk (SSD or HDD), optical drives and expansion cards.

Users can enhance their desktop experience by installing software applications and components for example printer, scanner, external hard disk, speakers and web cam among others.

Types of desktops

a. All-in-one computers

b. Gaming computer

c. Workstation

d. Tablet PC

e. Laptops, ultra books and notebooks

Key differences between servers and desktops

Secure file storage

Servers are fitted with multiple disk drives and disk tapes. The reason for doing so is to ensure data integrity. Each server acts as the backup for another. Saving data in a server is much different than a desktop computer. In a desktop computer, end users need to create the file and name it. They can organize their computer files by creating new folders and renaming them. What does this mean? Desktop allow storage of data in a hierarchical manner. Servers on the other hand are installed with larger database applications which allow storage of files in tables. The databases are composed of different tables linked together via primary keys. This is why it is referred to as relational databases. Thanks to this feature, system administrators and end users can search through a vast amount of data easier and find what they are looking for with ease. In a desktop, the search functionality has been simplified in Windows operating system allowing the software to index all files and folders. Still, it can be quite frustrating to find a specific file if you have stored a lot of files. Furthermore, indexing takes a lot of time and may slow performance.

Software updates

Servers run specialized operating systems referred to as server OS. Major server OS include Windows, UNIX and Linux. Windows OS servers are designed to provide a graphical user interface for the user but it’s not the same as the desktop version. There are some variants of Linux that offer a GUI desktop for the servers but they are considered less secure by system administrators. The most preferred server OS is command line Linux ad UNIX. To add, delete or back up data and information, system administrators use a couple of commands. To ensure security, the OS must be updated. Rolling out updates to servers is much easier than in desktops. Updates can be rolled out across the network but desktops have to be installed one machine after the other. Before updates are installed in a server environment, testing must be done to ensure no viruses or malwares are installed. The process of testing can be extensive and this eliminates exposure of the files and databases to the outside world via the internet. This is not so with desktops as the updates are already packaged plus no option for testing is done. When updating, the computer may send anonymous data to the software manufacturer.

Mirrored drives

As said earlier, servers are set up to manage a vast amount of data and information. They are not designed to serve one single end user but multiple corporations with thousands of users. To ensure they are able to take the load of multiple requests, multiple drives are installed. The disk drives are installed in such a way that they appear like one drive. Computer experts use the Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk method. This is done to protect the servers from individual disk failures. RAID is critical for your business because you don’t want to lose your precious data and information and it’s available between levels 1 to 5. This technology allows the drives to mirror each other. How is this helpful? It helps to ensure that incase one individual drive fails, another picks up the slack. Data and information will not be lost and it will ensure the smooth running of the organization. Desktops are either installed with a single drive or two. It can be a single HDD or SSD and HDD together. The SSD acts as the primary drive and is used to install the OS and other applications. The HDD acts as the secondary drive and is used to store files. In a desktop, if the drive fails the data may not be recovered easily.

Multiple processors and cache

Servers are connected to the network and since they store a vast amount of data and information, they need a lot of processing power. Server processors are specially designed. Unlike desktop processors that have a maximum of 8 or 10 cores, server processors can reach up to 22 cores. This is done to allow the servers to process requests faster. Imagine this – a multinational company with branches around the world with thousands of workers in each branch. The branches are selling products and services to thousands of businesses. To manage the different departments in an organization, it is common for organizations to invest in Enterprise Resource Planning platforms. They are designed to handle sales, marketing, customer relations, procurement and other departments. To ensure fast access to the platform, servers are needed. Thanks to the use of multiple processors in a single server with more cache memory, end users can operate smoothly. Desktops on the other hand are installed with a single processor which may have between 2 to 10 cores. The processor can be over clocked but still it won’t match the performance of servers. Even for gaming computers that are installed with graphics cards, their processors are geared towards handling graphics.

Multiple power supplies

To power a server, multiple power suppliers are needed. This does not mean that a single server has multiple power supplies but different configurations are made to ensure that the server runs throughout. Today, homes and businesses depend on electricity whether generated from solar, wind, hydro or nuclear. While electrical engineers have set up infrastructure and measures to ensure constant supply of electricity to different parts of a country, there comes a time when vast areas may suffer power failure. To a business, this means disaster. For example if the company is selling products and services, they will not be able to access customer information stored in an ERP, they will not be able to complete orders and will also not be able to secure their data and information. To ensure that servers continue functioning even when the main electricity supply is down, generators and alternative power inform of UPS (uninterruptible power supply) plus solar may be implemented. The reason this is done is because an organization has a lot at stake and it makes more financial sense to secure a server than a desktop. Desktops are installed with a single power supply which helps to power the hardware. A UPS can be connected to the desktop to ensure uninterrupted power but this may last less than 10 minutes.

Highly secure

Servers are designed to support multiple users and run a wide array of services and applications. To ensure the proper running of the organization, internet connectivity is needed. When it comes to an organization, the internet is treated with care. To prevent unauthorized access to the internal network of the organization, the internet is routed through a server. Here the organization can set up access levels not only to block unauthorized users but to block viruses and malwares too. Hackers do target businesses and large organizations for their intellectual properties and data. To protect themselves, organizations install enterprise grade security in form of firewalls, security suites and others. Furthermore, network administrators will change the passwords frequently and implement security policies for end users in the organization to follow. This is not so with a desktop. As a single user computer, available security tools can be compromised easily leading to data and information being stolen. Furthermore, desktops are more vulnerable to malwares and viruses.

Graphics

Desktops run multiple applications for word processing, spreadsheets, software development and most of all, video games. Today, video games have improved in terms of graphics and as a result, computer manufacturers have had to up their game. This is the reason why desktop users need to buy a graphics card to improve game play. Graphics cards are fitted with their own processors referred to as GPUs and cooling units. This is to prevent the overheating of the hardware leading to damage. Available models of graphics cards have GPUs with a capacity of 2 GB and above. They help to process the frame rate of a video game providing a seamless experience. This is the same with workstations used to manipulate images and create 3D models. Servers are not used to process graphics demanding applications and this is why they are not fitted with graphics cards. Majority of the applications are run via command line. They are characterized by a black screen thus eliminating the need of a graphics cards.

Operating system

The operating system is a software installed in computers and acts as the interface between the end user and the hardware. Servers have a different OS than desktops even though some of them are developed by the same companies. The server OS is able to support more memory allowing faster processing of requests. It also uses CPUs more efficiently than a desktop. This allows the server to offer optimal performance at all times. When it comes to network connections, a server OS can manage more than 20 while a desktop version can manage only one. Lastly, the server OS is configured to run background tasks efficiently while the desktop version is designed to give priority to foreground tasks and services. This means that the server OS yields much better performance than the desktop version. Even when it comes to updating, it is much easier to roll out updates to several servers than desktops. Updates can be done via the network allowing the system administrator to upgrade the system and improve performance.

Case

Two major types of server cases are available – rack and tower. Thanks to improved technology, there are companies designing custom made servers with the purpose of reducing cost, improving security and scalability. Rack servers are available as a single unit. To improve data handling and processing, multiple servers are installed. This calls for the installation of a rack case. The rack case just like the tower case is designed with high quality steel. Steel is a material renowned for its toughness and corrosion resistant capabilities. Thanks to the availability of both cases, you can modernize your business infrastructure with the most comprehensive versatile computing power that delivers efficiency across diverse workloads and applications. The case is thick and this helps to reduce noise level. Furthermore, it prevents damage to the hand during assembly and maintenance. Desktops are available in different form factors. Cases available include Full tower, mid tower, ATX and micro ATX among others. They are designed to reduce space and allow the addition of expansion cards and disk drives to improve performance and storage.

Reasons to invest in servers for your small business

Today, small businesses play an important role. They help to provide customized products and services that large organizations are unable. To ensure better management of task and services, it is important for a small business to invest in servers.

Here are reasons why

a. Improve management

Small businesses have to deal with a multitude of customers. To manage their information and orders, small businesses need to invest in servers. They can run open source ERPs and POS programs improving sales, customer relations, procurement and marketing among others.

b. Improves security

Paperless operation is the new norm in the business world. Businesses are moving from printing papers to the cloud. Thanks to servers, small business can set up their own scalable storage systems to ensure easy access to data. Furthermore, they can invest in enterprise security to prevent data theft.

c. Organize your information and data

With relational database software, small businesses can organize data and information in multiple tables. This help to make indexing and searching of information easier.

d. Consolidate storage and resources

Small business cannot escape data theft. With servers, they can consolidate storage and resources improving efficiency in the work place.

e. Manage viruses and spam

Communication is important in a small business. With a network server, you can prevent viruses and spam from infecting and gaining entry into your employees inbox.

Final Thoughts

As a small business, it is wise to invest in servers. It is also important to differentiate between desktops and servers. Desktops cannot take up the role of server. This is because they don’t have the specialized hardware and software to ensure better performance, improve resource management and enhance security. As a small business you need to invest in servers if you want to stay ahead of your competitors.

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      Hasan Ali 3 weeks ago

      Hi, i just want to know which server is best Dell or Hp pls suggest thanks Glad to here.

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      Emma Ahmed 3 weeks ago

      Great informative article thank you so much :)